WordPress Themes: What To Look For When Changing?
WordPress Themes, as I always feel, is not just about your WordPress design, but also the strength it possesses and it reflects the overall personality of your blog. Thus while choosing a new theme for your WordPress blog, you can’t chase after a feature you’re looking for and select it abruptly. There are some crucial aspects to check and judge to make the perfect decision.
Here, in this post, I’ll discuss about some of the most important points that you need to pay attention to before you buy any new WordPress theme.
I’ve recently changed the theme of my own blog as well as a couple of other blogs. It was not only because the old theme was worn out; but a change refreshes your readers too! However, the main reason was an issue pointed out by Alexa: my site was too slow! You can afford a lot of things, but a slow blog is unacceptable at any cost!
WordPress Themes: What To Look For When Changing
We are always reluctant to change and when a change is felt necessary, you really need to be very careful and feel the whole ground before actually stepping on. Here are some key points I suggest to help you choose WordPress themes:
1.The Depth of Your Pocket
Obviously! The price of WordPress themes is one of important factor. It may ranges from $22 – $200. You can find some premium WordPress themes even below $22! And Thesis Professional costs $197. Set apart the cost of child themes or skins.
Depending upon your requirement and the depth of your pocket, you should go with the WordPress template that has all the features you need for your new blog.
It took me quite a while before I decided to go for Thesis. One reason, definitely is because I always got other cheaper premium WordPress templates. I wished to purchase Thesis with the money I earned through my blog itself; it must be the second reason. And the third reason was my dilemma – Should I go for Genesis or Thesis, it remained for quite long.
2. Your Wish to Change the World
Most WordPress themes are good enough to use directly out of the box. However, you may need to change the site logo, site name, description, favicon and so on. In some cases you’d like to change the size of sidebars, headers, footers etc. If you are conscious to blog personality, you may wish to use unique color scheme and customize many other things.
WordPress themes offer either of the two methods to customize the look and feel – through codes or through Options Page in dashboard. Make sure which method the theme offers and you are comfortable with that. I’ve seen many people querying for “how to change favicon for ….. theme“.
3. Code Validation
Theme authors are great designers and sometimes really poor coders. Sounds odd? But, I’ve often encountered the dreadful code beneath the awesome look.
They hop around screwing everything up until they achieve the looks as they want. When they forget to check if their code is actually HTML & XHTML valid, the ugly code smiles.
Why is this important?
The invalid codes may cause the browsers render pages incorrectly; even worse is, future browsers may fail to display the important parts of the page. You can use W3C’s validator to check your new WordPress themes.
4. Cross Browser Compatibility
Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer are the most popular browsers for desktop computers. Most of the WordPress themes are written based on these browsers. Make sure your theme is fine with these browsers.
However, you can’t say what browser your readers will use to access your content. The more browsers your theme supports, the better results you’ll get. But, it won’t be virtually possible to test a theme in all the available browsers in earth. Then, what’s the better workaround?
- Grab the demo site (most theme developers offer a demo site to test different features built into it),
- Visit Browsershots (lets you test a site on 100+ browsers and different OS combinations)
- Paste the demo site URL in “Enter URL Here” box.
- Click Search.
You’ll see thumbnails of demo site as it appears on different browsers.
5. Responsive Design
The Internet uses behavior is changing and now the increasing numbers are accessing it using tablets and smart phones. It has been really important for your blog to be mobile-friendly. Make sure the WordPress theme has responsive design.
I’m really loving the Marketers Delight skin over the Thesis 2 theme for my own blog. I’m free to create content and promoting posts without worrying how it will appear on different sized screens. Moreover, when you learn a bit about customizing Thesis, you can make it more usable by placing important parts of your site to displayed first in small screens.
You found a theme and dying fall in love with it, but it does not support responsive design, you’ll risk the traffic loss. The only workaround in such situation will be to use some mobile plugins such as MPTouch or mobile site services such as DudaMobile.
Though the plugins or mobile services offers you some flexibility, I still prefer responsive designs to avoid additional cost.
6. Widgetized Areas
You can’t think about a WordPress theme without any widgets, can you? Widgets lets you add more functionality to your blog and offers you flexibility to manage different content directly from dashboard.
Make sure your theme supports widgets in areas where you plan them to insert. Sidebar and footer are the common areas. So, to check if the new WordPress theme has widgetized areas in those places, you can inspect
7. Template Files
Depending upon for what the theme is optimized, you’ll find some special page templates in new WordPress themes. These templates will save your time when you need specific pages such as landing pages, sales pages, squeeze page and so on. If you plan to have these pages in your blog, check to see your theme has them already.
Apart from special pages, you should ensure that the WordPress theme has all common templates. I hope, it already contains:
home.php(for front page),
single.php(for post pages),
archive.php(for archive pages),
category.php(for category pages),
author.php(essential when your blog is multi-authored),
date.php(for date-wise archive).
And finally, check if it has
404.php. This page is returned when users lands on some non-existing posts in your blog. You can customize this page to make it most usable if required.
8. Site Name & Title
Check how the new WordPress theme handles the site name and titles. You can find this information by inspecting in
header.php file. In between
</head> find the tag
</title>. Check what it has included in between those title tags.
If your theme has:
<title><?php bloginfo('name') ?> <?php wp_title() ?></title>
You better change it to:
<title><?php wp_title() ?> <?php bloginfo('name') ?></title>
Why this change?
Organic traffic are most important to any blog and you should optimize every bits of your blog construct to ensure the maximum traffic from SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). Title tag is one of the prominent factors search engines look into to determine the relevancy of a page against search query.
When you have
wp_title() before the
bloginfo('name'), you make front room available for main keywords. I’m sure you inject the main keywords in title tags, don’t you?
9. You Need Some Hooks in WordPress Themes
WordPress has a lot of hooks to perform their designated tasks such as adding some extra output, inserting tracking codes, and so on. If the theme author forgets to insert the required hooks, you’ll face a lot of unnecessary issues with plugins. So, it is always wise to check for them before you actually install it for your blog.
How can you make sure if hooks are inserted in theme files?
header.php file and check if it contains:
Similarly check if your
footer.php file contains:
comments.php file should contain:
<?php do_action('comment_form', $post->ID); ?>
10. What About Credit Links?
Credit Links are very frequent with best free WordPress themes. As a form of payment, the theme author places one, two or three links on the footer. Are you happy to offer the link back instead of theme price?
As per the license agreement, you can’t remove the credit links and often, there’s no harm to reward the theme author with a couple of link back. However, there’s a catch and you should be aware of it.
Many SEO companies hired theme authors to create nice themes and they are distributed for free to the wider public. This way, the companies spread the client’s links throughout blogosphere. The real problem is visible when these links point to some bad sites. Thus, you are suggested to check all the outgoing links from the theme. Make sure they point to the proper credit and not to the illegal or low quality websites.
I wait for your comments hoping that these 10 points help you to choose perfect WordPress theme for you new blog.
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